Algae In Aquariums
Put very simply, algae are a greenish/brownish growth that forms along the walls of your aquarium, or on plants and aquarium decorations. Algae are mostly chlorophyll producing photosynthetic organisms that resemble plants a lot. Contrary to plants, algae are single celled and are therefore not really plants. Excessive algae growth can be very frustrating for aquarists, especially for beginner aquarists and for those that have recently installed stronger lights. Since fish provide enough food for plants to grow, the chlorophyll filled algae too find your aquarium a safe breeding ground. Algae look ugly, and are difficult to eradicate completely. A small amount of algae is a natural part of the ecosystem and can even be an appreciated food source for many fish species. Once a thick carpet of algae forms in your aquarium, they will however begin to compete viciously for all the nutrients that your aquarium can provide. The "Algae Bloom" plagues almost every aquarium at one time or the other. Algae grow fast, especially when there is a regular supply of warm sunlight and rich nutrients.
Before we start off, it is necessary to know some inevitable facts about the relationship of an aquarium with algae. If you have an aquarium, then algae are inevitable. Algae can even be beneficial. When nutrient levels are very high in your aquarium, the algae consume the extra nutrients, thus making the water healthier for your fish. Algae also indicate that the ecosystem within your aquarium is healthy. Do not resort to chemical controlling of algae if you can get by with the natural method. If you try to chase away your algae too regularly, you will be causing too much of stress for your fish.
There are several types of algae. The main categories include:
- The Green Algae
- The Blue-Green Algae
- The Red Algae, and
- The Diatoms
The filamentous green algae form long green threads. These need abundant sunlight to flourish. They can be very damaging to plants as they rob them of vital nutrients. Filamentous green algae can be controlled by algae-eaters or by physical removal.
The suspended green algae look like green water. Large and frequent water changes will help to get rid of these. It will sometimes be necessary to use algaecides.
The green spot algae form round spots on leaves and on the glass. Snails and algae eating fish can be used to remove these.
The blue-green algae are much more harmful than the green algae types and produce substances that are toxic for fish. Excessive illumination and high nitrate and phosphate levels create an ideal environment for these algae. Fish do not eat blue-green algae and the best way to get rid of these algae is a week of total darkness in the aquarium. Several water changes are also a must to get rid of them.
Diatoms form a layer of a brownish slime like substance on rocks, glass and plants. They are quickly eaten off by algae-eaters. They also subside when lighting intensity goes up.
Since Algae are unsightly and parasitic, it is necessary to keep their count low. There are some things that you can do to hamper the growth and spread of algae. The first and most important step is REGULAR water changes. Nothing can help you more than this. Remember, the reason you do not find algae floating in running streams is because the water in the streams keep changing at least a hundred times a day. Excess algae growth will instead be found in pools and puddles where the water is still. We can simulate nature very poorly when we change 20% of the water twice in a week. Change a little of your water as often as you can, and much of your algae problems will be solved.
At least once a month, take a special kind of aquarium scrubber and clean the glass of your aquarium completely. Some rocks contain certain minerals that will cause algae to grow rapidly. If you feel this could be the reason, remove the rocks immediately. Most algae need lots of sunlight. Keeping sunlight levels down, and using fluorescent lighting most of the time is also a simple way to keep the algae growth to a minimum.
New plants that come into your aquarium need to be treated to prevent algae from entering your aquarium. You can use Potassium Permanganate or Alum to treat your new plants. After soaking the plants in this for about 10 minutes, they should be rinsed thoroughly and then planted. Also remember to remove any weights or ties around the plants that you brought home. You should clean the fake plants or decorations in your aquarium by soaking them in a 1:20 solution of bleach to water for a few hours. These then need to be soaked in dechlorinated water. If you will be emptying out the entire contents of your aquarium, it is a good idea to soak your entire aquarium in fresh water with a dechlorinator.
Using algae-eating fish species and grazing snails will greatly help to keep down the amount of algae in your aquarium. As mentioned earlier, introducing algae-eaters as the first fish in your aquarium will greatly help to keep the algal growth at bay from the very beginning. These fish will eat the algae that grow on the sides of the aquarium and on the leaves. Snails will also help to keep the sides of your glass aquarium clean. Algaecides are the chemical way to get rid of algae, but they work on a limited type of algae only. Using natural methods of control are a much better option.
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